As I sit here to write this review, I’ve false-started no less than four times, because my real question when it comes to Austin, Texas, sludgers The Roller is what to say first. Sure, they’re heavy, sure, they’re riffy, and sure, their second album, Wasted Heritage (Cyclopean) is four tracks/39 minutes of only the nastiest kind of nasty nastiness, but I think even more than all of that, what strikes me about The Roller is how uncompromising this material is. To imagine these guys coming from the same place as disparate acts like Dixie Witch and The Sword; it’s like the town has multiple personalities. More than that, it’s hard to imagine a place that sees so much sunshine throughout the year could produce music so hateful.
My chief comparison point for The Roller’s 2008 self-titled debut on Monofonus Press was Sourvein, and the same holds true for Wasted Heritage, but The Roller sound even meaner here, more grim, more foreboding, with an atmosphere that has more in common with Darkthrone than Eyehategod. The album is structured meticulously and with vinyl in mind: two longer tracks sandwiching two shorter ones, so that the opener and closer are over 10 minutes apiece and the middle two under seven. Still, it’s the sound that seems most thought out. Wasted Heritage was recorded by Bryan Richie (The Sword), and the guitars of Theron Rhoten sound positively filthy, cutting a jagged buzzsaw through opener “Candle Black” and managing even to dirty up the atmospheric beginning of 14-minute closer “White Wing.”
Wasted Heritage is the kind of album where the more abrasive it is, the better it gets, and The Roller keep it plenty punishing for the duration. Their pace runs from slow to “fuck you,” with the latter at whatever speed you want it to be. Third track, “Passage,” runs furious only to crash into the song’s concluding plod. Immediate predecessor “Of Feather and Bone” (if the title sounds familiar, it might be reminding you of Black Cobra’s 2007 album, Feather and Stone) is faster than the standout parts of opener “Candle Black,” but what The Roller accomplish no matter what tempo they’re working in is to emphasize the crash and the laborious. Drummer Jeremy Jenkins’ kick bass and toms are high in the mix, giving Wasted Heritage extra percussive force — he also starts the album with a Slayer-esque play on the ride cymbal — and bassist Miguel Veliz has rumble to match.
That said, much of The Roller’s aural malevolence is straight from the mouth of vocalist Mike Morowitz, who spews throaty cackled vitriol all across the four tracks of Wasted Heritage with Mike Williams-style abandon. If Wasted Heritage is a darker-sounding album than was The Roller, and I’d gladly argue it is, Morowitz has to be at least part of the reason why. With Rhoten providing backups on “Candle Black,” the mood of the record is viciously set. From there, it’s just a matter of maintaining the cruelty, which The Roller seem to have no trouble doing. Like their first, Wasted Heritage probably isn’t a landmark album, but it’s great at loud volumes, great for road rage and some of the most malicious sludge I’ve heard this year.
Tags: Austin, Cyclopean, Texas, The Roller